World Youth Day – Part III
To catch yourself up to speed on World Youth Day’s history, consider reading Part I & II from the previous two days, which can be found below. If you want to dive right into the actual experience of being at a World Youth Day, then press on.
St. Peter’s Square, 1986, 300,000 young lay faithful, descended upon the Vatican, to heed John Paull II’s call: “Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you (1 Pet 3:15).” This was the message that echoed through the colonnades of St. Peter’s Basilica at that first World Youth Day. Now, twenty-three years later, the spirit of World Youth Day carries on. The Second Vatican Council’s original salutation to the youth, and a Pope’s unrelenting guidance, brought this Catholic pilgrimage to Rome two times, Argentina, Spain, Poland, Denver(!), the Philippines (largest), France, Canada, Germany, Australia, and before you know it, Spain, in the summer of 2011.
Yes, the Catholic faith is everywhere, because the body of Christ is everywhere. We span the globe. No continent has gone untouched by the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Notice the third mark of the Church in the Nicene Creed, penned in 325 AD, at the Council of Nicea, Catholic. What does Catholic mean? Universal. What is meant by universal? “Hence the universal Church is seen to be ‘a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (CC 810).'” As Catholics, we have been endowed by God through the Church, with His Son and the Holy Spirit. By our baptism, we enter into this communion, which manifests in full at World Youth Day.
Arriving at a World Youth Day experience for a pilgrim does not begin in an indescribable sea of a million young Catholics, but rather in a smaller gathering five days prior in a dioceses outside the host city. In preparation for that gathering of millions, this time of ‘Days in the Dioceses,’ or also known as ‘Days of Encounter,’ is a place where pilgrims connect on a deeper level with other Catholics from around the world. Whether its a three hour mass due to translation adjustments, or a night of African dancing, pilgrims delve deeper into their faith through the exposure to many Catholic cultures.
It may also be a time when one may pray for ‘the rush of a mighty wind, so that tongues of fire might descend and allow one to speak in other tongues.’ This prayer and fruition of tongues would be an incredible blessing. For the universality of the Church, and diversity of languages awakes and at times confuses eyes and ears alike. For instance, in Germany, the other Catholic pilgrims that were assigned to our dioceses included Mexico, Lithuania, and Tanzania, just to name a few. Despite language barriers, although much of the world now speaks fluent English, pilgrims of all nations unite under Jesus Christ. ‘For wherever two are gathered in my name, I am present.’
To paint the picture of diversity, universality, the Catholic Church, simply scan the palette of world flags below. This is your greeting at World Youth Day as the millions descend from five days of encounter with the richness of the faith! Imagine the power behind this gathering. Return for more, as the charter buses and vans carry the millions of pilgrims from the surrounding dioceses to the host city, in preparation for the arrival of Peter’s successor.